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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Esther Pohl Lovejoy Campaign 1920: Credentials, Networking, PR, and the Check is in the Mail

Esther Pohl Lovejoy declared her 1920 candidacy as a Democrat for U.S. Congress from Oregon's Third District (Multnomah County/Portland) on March 11, 1920 on a visit to the Pacific Northwest. Lovejoy was then the chair of the medical humanitarian relief organization the American Women's Hospitals headquartered in New York City and sponsored by the Medical Women's National Association. She was also acting chair of the MWNA. And she was also the president of the fledgling Medical Women's International Association. And she had, that February, represented Oregon along with Effie Comstock Simmons, at the National American Woman Suffrage Association's "victory" convention, which oversaw the transformation of NAWSA to the League of Women Voters. This, combined with her wartime medical work and her record as an Oregon suffragist and in municipal office as Portland City Health Officer from 1907-1909, was a strong record upon which to build a campaign.

Pohl decided to run, but had also to manage the Medical Women's National Association convention in New Orleans in May. She was also part of a NAWSA delegation to Connecticut to urge that state to ratify the Nineteenth (woman suffrage) Amendment. No one else had filed for the primary as a Democrat. She campaigned, set up an organization, and returned to New York in April, planning to return after the May 21 primary in which she stood unopposed.

Two weeks later, Sylvia Thompson, who had served in the Oregon House in the 1917 and 1919 sessions, announced her candidacy for the seat. Thompson was part of a faction in Oregon that opposed Democratic senator George E. Chamberlain, Lovejoy's ally from previous campaigns and suffrage work in the state.

Lovejoy's supporters rallied to define her candidacy as one in which her national and international experience and current commitments would make her a successful representative of Oregon. A great example is "Dr. Lovejoy is Too Busy to Return Here for Campaign Work," Oregon Journal, April 28, 1920, 3.

The article has it all -- credentials, networking, and PR. Clare Pierce, the daughter of former Democratic state senator Walter M. Pierce, reports on Lovejoy's activities -- the upcoming MWNA convention in New Orleans, her work with the national suffrage organization in the ratification of the 19th Amendment at the request of NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt, and by the way, Herbert Hoover has just written the foreword to the second edition of Lovejoy's House of the Good Neighbor, a record of her wartime medical service with the Red Cross.

Did the strategy work? Stay tuned.